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Carnival is a name for any kind of revelry or festivity. By tradition, it is the season just before Lent celebrated by merrymaking, processions, dancing, and feasting. During Carnival week masked balls, processions of decorated floats through the streets, costume parades, and feasting generally mark the celebration. The word "carnival" probably comes from the medieval Latin carnelevarium, meaning to take away or remove meat (in the past, Catholics were forbidden to eat meat during the 40 days of Lent). The first day of the carnival season varies from country to country. Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, from the custom of using up meat and fats in the home before Lent, here in Spain is Fat Thursday.
Barcelona's Carnival is not very important, there is no central parade - individual districts organise and hold their own. At night-time, during the week before Ash Wednesday the streets are full of people dressed up and many parties are held (the most popular of which is usually held in the Spanish Village - Poble Espanyol - on the Saturday night). During the day children's carnivals are organised and most schools let the children go in fancy dress on the Friday before Ash Wednesday. These pictures illustrate the latter:
(via Carnival in Spain
, thanks Pat)